With MLB Best Ball coming soon to DraftKings, it’s time to start diving into draft strategies and season-long projects for the 2023 campaign. However, with a new format comes new wrinkles. How can you manipulate these unique positional eligibilities and statistical scoring categories to your advantage?
Let’s dive into it.
OF Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels
Outlier Archetype: Unicorn
There are many athletes who have been known to keep track of the amount of times their name has been dropped in a song, but how many can say they’ve been specifically mentioned in the rules of a DFS format? Spoiler alert: It’s just Ohtani. Thus is the life of baseball’s generational two-way star. Questions surrounding Ohtani’s positional eligibility have been commonplace in fantasy communities the past half-decade, but DraftKings is making things easy in Best Ball. He’s just a hitter. None of his pitching stats will be counted. It’s that simple.
Obviously, making Ohtani a one-dimensional asset has an impact on his overall value. I mean, we’re not talking about someone who takes the mound once a week only to eat innings. This is the 2021 American League MVP. Baseball’s cheat code. Over 166.0 frames in 2022, Ohtani maintained the third-lowest qualified FIP among starters (2.40), while also posting the league’s second-highest strikeout rate (33.2%). That’s not to suggest that Ohtani isn’t also an extremely elite offensive weapon for the Angels — he owned a 142 wRC+ last season — yet without his dual-threat ability, it’s difficult to justify Ohtani’s consensus ADP in redraft formats. In Best Ball, he shouldn’t be drafted two rounds ahead of Paul Goldschmidt, Austin Riley or Nolan Arenado.
IF Fernando Tatis Jr., San Diego Padres
Outlier Archetype: Red Flag Merchant
“I’d trust him more in Best Ball” is the refrain of a lazy fantasy analyst, but there are clearly certain players where the built-in safety of the format is appreciated. Tatis is one of those players. Since debuting in 2019, the former top prospect has taken only 1,175 plate appearances at the MLB level. Now, some of that can not be blamed on Tatis — he wasn’t the reason the regular season was 60 games in 2020 — but the injuries, suspensions and, well, motorcycle accidents are pilling up at this point in the 24-year-old’s career. So much so that despite clubbing 42 home runs, stealing 25 bases and registering a 157 wRC+ in his only full-campaign at the big league level, Tatis isn’t even close to being considered a first-round pick by consensus ADP.
Still, that type of raw upside is tantalizing, even if we already know that Tatis will miss the Padres’ first 20 contests of 2023. If he can stay healthy and flirt with 550-plus plate appearances in an absolutely stacked lineup, Tatis could easily be one of baseball’s most productive assets this season. If not, you’re not left completely holding the bag, looking for someone specifically with shortstop eligibility to fill the void.
Other Examples: Mike Trout, Jacob deGrom, Luis Robert, George Springer
IF Bobby Witt Jr., Kansas City Royals
Outlier Archetype: Steals Savant
It remains to be seen how much of an impact baseball’s new rules will have on stolen bases. If the trends from Triple-A last season are to be believed, the reduction of pickoff moves and the slightly larger bases won’t have that big an impact on the run game. However, stolen base numbers in the first week of Spring Training were up a considerable amount. In any case, it appears that steals will once again be the statistical category in 5x5 rotisserie and head-to-head leagues where there’s some pretty significant scarcity.
In no way is this more illustrated than Witt’s current consensus price tag as a first-round selection in redraft. Don’t get me wrong, there’s slightly more to his helium than his 100th percentile sprint speed and 30 stolen bags from a season ago, yet when you really start to compare Witt’s résumé to his peers, the sophomore’s shortcomings are quite obvious. Yes, Witt carries with him immense prospect pedigree, and a jump in production in his second full season at the MLB level wouldn’t be shocking, but a player with a .294 OBP and a 99 wRC+ being taken ahead of Yordan Alvarez in most formats is unsettling. Fortunately, steals are only as valuable as doubles in DraftKings Best Ball, which means you won’t have to sacrifice overall quality for production in a single category. Rejoice and be merry.
Other Examples: Marcus Semien, Cedric Mullins, Tommy Edman
OF Daulton Varsho, Toronto Blue Jays
Outlier Archetype: Positional Loophole
Generally speaking, there is no indulgent on the face of the Earth sweeter than a fantasy asset with catcher eligibility who does not actually catch. Being a catcher at the MLB level is hard work. So much is made of the physical toll catchers put on their bodies, yet it’s important to remember how much responsibility those that wear the mask have with their teams’ pitching staffs, as well. It’s a huge reason why catchers are rarely above-average hitters and why even the ones who are don’t see nearly as many plate appearances as other positional players — aside from J.T. Realmuto. He’s a freak.
Catchers across the board have less value in DraftKings Best Ball, as they’re all simply lumped into the player pool as infielders. However, I wanted to make special mention of Varsho, as his stock has skyrocketed since being traded to Toronto this offseason. Varsho has flashed decent numbers at the plate in his brief professional career, posting a .207 ISO and 27 home runs in 592 PAs in 2022. The left-handed bat will also surely benefit from hitting in a lineup with the likes of Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and George Springer, while a newly renovated Rogers Centre is incredibly appealing, too. Still, without that “C” next to his name on draft boards, Varsho’s massively overvalued by his consensus ADP. Consider that THE BAT projects the 26-year-old to post comparable numbers to Joc Pederson and Michael Conforto in 2023 — players being taken hundreds of picks after Varsho in most redraft formats. It’s crazy how much one letter can change.
Other Examples: MJ Melendez
P Edwin Diaz, New York Mets
Outlier Archetype: Bullpen Boy
This one’s fairly easy to follow, but still worth mentioning. In DraftKings Best Ball, the optimum way for a pitcher to accumulate fantasy points is volume. Pitchers will receive DKFP for innings thrown, strikeouts and wins. Heck, there’s even a 2.5-point bonus sitting out there for any starter able to toss a complete game — as rare as that may be in this era of pitch counts and specialized relievers.
You’ll notice what was not included in that list of achievements: Saves. Unlike most 5x5 category formats, there is no reward for a pitcher coming on in the ninth inning to secure a team’s victory. So, even an elite strikeout artist like Diaz will have little to no value on DraftKings in 2023. If only points were awarded for sweet introduction music and aesthetics. Then Diaz and a few more closers would be much higher in my personal rankings.
Other Examples: All relievers
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is theglt13) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and do not constitute a representation that any particular strategy will guarantee success. All customers should use their own skill and judgment in building lineups. I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.